Disciple vs. Punishment vs. Teaching

We are told to make disciples.  Matthew 28:19 says, “Go, and make disciples”.  Pretty nifty segue, huh?

I’ve always learned that to disciple is to teach.  And there is a stark contrast between teaching and punishing.  Punishment is typically more about anger, revenge and control.  The lesson gathered is usually the wrong lesson.  It’s about interactions with the punisher more than it is about a greater life issue.

For example, if a child spills a cup and gets yelled at, they are more likely to learn that the parents are angry people that need to be avoided.  A more timid personality could develop (or a more defiant one).  It’s likely that the lesson of ‘be more careful’ or ‘pay attention’, etc. is not deposited correctly when punishment is used.

And the whole goal of disciplining is to teach.  When used in the Bible, there is typically the disciple and the follower.  So you aren’t just teaching, you are leading.  They aren’t just trying to learn one or two things, they are trying to be just like you.  which begins to answer the most important question… why not just use the word, ‘teach’?  When one word defines another, why not just use the other word?

The word, ‘teach’ is in the Bible, but it doesn’t make sense where ‘disciple’ is used.  Part of being a disciple is being a leader.  Not all teachers are good leaders.  They have the facts but not the heart.  Even more important is what we are teaching and how we are teaching it.  Lets start with the what.

If I wanted to learn math, I would find a math teacher.  If I wanted to learn about cars, I would find a mechanic (also a teacher).  Schools teach.  They provide knowledge.  If I want to learn about God, I can also go to a school.  There are many factual details to be learned that can come from book and scholar.  But what if I want to become a Christian?

Being a Christian requires and is defined by a personal relationship with God.  This isn’t taught.  You can’t test your way into heaven.  This is shown.  Personally.  Through example, testimony, lifestyle choices, prayer, discipline… aha, that word again.  Discipline.  Discipline is not just used to teach, its used to inform upon souls the most precious things of this world.  The most important things.

And how is this done?  With love.  The greatest command.  Screaming on internet forums or arguing on social media has yielded 0 positive results.  I don’t have to look that number up.  No one has come to Christ by being judged, ridiculed, and punished by ‘church-folk’.  But they do take note when they see people loving others.  Sharing food, clothes, shelter… just like Jesus said He would judge us by (Matt 25:44).

I don’t feel like this is a particularly revelatory message.  But I also find I don’t adequately work to separate the different meanings of those words we use all the time. Without putting much thought into it we could likely argue that punishment, discipline, and teaching are fairly synonymous.  But what vast differences they carry when you consider the mission, the message, and the method.

You might note that the disciples were followers of Jesus.  Many will assume a disciple is a follower and that is true.  But only in regards to whom we are following.  And this is exactly why disciples are leaders.  We are on the way to Jesus.  And He commanded we bring others with us.  We are leaders, in that, we are on the right path to salvation.

We are leading with a message that transcends book knowledge (more like a way of live, a way of eternal life) and we present the message with love.  This is discipline.  This is to be a disciple.  This is what God wants more of.  “Go and make disciples of  all nations”.

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The Bible: Written as We Sometimes Live

I can do some reasonable things through Christ.

The LORD is my shepherd, I need lots of stuff.  He makes me lie down but I’d rather stand, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He forces me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear everything, for I don’t see you; your rod and your staff, they neglect me. You prepare a table before me surrounded by my enemies.  You dump oil on my head; my cup overflows so I cannot drink.  Surely your goodness and love will find me one day, and I will hopefully dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

But the fruit of the Spirit is correction, pride, winning, entitlement, strength, ego, self-preservation, unquestioning, social media; against such things there is no law.

He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, It’s not really your fault anymore so… go nuts!

Therefore confess your sins to no one and pray in solitude so that no one will find out. The prayer of a lonely person is powerful and effective.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you a long list of rules that aren’t cool.

Rejoice when you can,  pray when you need something,  give thanks if you got what you wanted.

Trust in the LORD with all your brain and lean heavily on your own understanding

Conform to the patterns of this world, be transformed by the renewing of your instincts.

Be anxious about everything, and in everything, by prayer and petition, with urgency, present your lists to God.

Therefore go and make disciples by donating to missionaries.

for all of those people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you things, promotions, relationships… like a genie.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you leave each other alone and refrain from sharing God publicly.

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There are certainly more.  This is why I love communion each Sunday.  It forces inner reflection.  We have to know who we are and when we get disconnected from the message.  Sometimes its minor.  It starts off small.  But if we aren’t careful, We are claiming Christ in our minds and screaming “I don’t know the man”(Matt:26:72)  with everything else.  I pray a different look at the words will spark a renewal in you.

What Matters Most

I got cut off in traffic again.  This one was much worse.  He came so close to hitting me he was able to conveniently reach out and punch my windshield.  So throw in some road rage and bullying to boot.  Sadly, its far too common.

I also tried to pull a fork out of the drawer.  You know… a fork… in a silverware drawer in the kitchen?  What is there to say about that?  Well, I guess I kept misjudging the size of the fork or the length of the drawer, or some other law of nature, because it kept getting knocked back into the drawer.  I was in a bit of a hurry so I would start to walk away from the drawer and then, “CLANK!” still no fork in hand.  After the 4th try I decided it was time to stop and take a deep breath.

Why?  Because its moments like that, the little ones, that can send a bit of anger into my life.  The hospital lost my check.  In cases like these its not my word against theirs.  I still owe them money no matter whose fault it really is.  Every light was red on my way into work, someone ate the last doughnut, I left my keys at home, and the heat is out in my office.  It’s days and weeks like this where it is hardest to focus.

What is worse, its easiest to start making excuses.  Little pity parties just to help the day get better.  I’ll skip my diet today, I deserve a cheer me up.  An extra coffee?  sure!  I deserve one.  Was I mean to that waitress?  bah! can’t be worse than what I’ve had.  Bills due?  Tomorrow!  Kids need attention?  Tomorrow!!  Marriage needs work?  Tomorrow!!!

My goal is to start looking at that pizza above.  If you have OCD its even more difficult to see.  Ponder it for a moment.  We all know that cutting a pizza that way is just plain wrong.  There should probably be a fine!  But honestly consider… will it taste any different?  Do the cheese molecules change any?  Does the sauce die if not connected to 1/8th serving of crust?  If you were blindfolded and fed the tip of that slice, would you be able to declare, “The crust is missing from the back edge!!!!”, solely from tasting the front tip?

I don’t think you can.  And when tragedies happen, yet don’t really affect anything… what do we do?  With all that is in me I want to declare this pizza ruined, and wrong, and it should be ashamed of itself, but when I ponder what has actually happened… well, nothing.  It’s still pizza.  It still tastes the same.  It still smells the same.  It still adds just as many beautiful, loving, wonderful carbs.

And I want to apply this to every single aspect of my life because no matter how you slice it, we are still people trying to live out life together.  That guy that cut me off needs prayers.  The bank needs my patience.  The family needs my love and support, and no matter how many things seem to pile up against me, I have to start asking… does it matter?  Will any of these devastating adversaries in my life change the fact that I am a Christian?  Will any of them take away the Cross?  Were there any moments in the life of Jesus that diverted His course, changed His nature, or consumed His peace?

When we put things in the correct perspective (beneath the cross of a risen Savior), we go from, “Ewwww, who ruined this pizza??!?!?” to “mmmmm…. can I have another slice?”.   Enjoy the cheesy goodness, no matter what shape it takes, and you will be controlling your life rather than submitting to the silly circumstances that show up to rob you of your happiness.

Bo Knows Sports. Do We Know God?

 

Bo Jackson was often idolized for being an All-Star athlete in two sports at the same time.  But that praise doesn’t give adequate justice.  He wasn’t just a pro bowl running back, he was two completely different positions worth of athlete on the field at the same time using up only one roster slot.  Let me explain that a bit.

Most teams now employ running back rotations.  While not entirely new, their purpose is different than it used to be.  One running back will be fast, agile, and as a result, usually smaller.  Their job is to get open with their speed and avoid getting tackled with their flexibility.  They look for huge chunks of yardage and the ever popular screen play.  These guys generally have good hands too and will take short passes in the hopes of turning them into something much bigger.

They are hard to catch, but easy to tackle, which is a problem.  So in comes RB2.  The big guy.  His sole purpose is to punch in through a wall of defenders and give everything he’s got to gain just one or two yards.  Usually you see him on the goal line.  When EVERYONE knows you are going to run the ball, it goes to the guy who won’t go down easy.  He needs to be able to knock defenders backwards and drag a rookie or two for a few extra yards.  So desperate for that one yard, some teams have even given the ball to their biggest lineman hoping he can penetrate the defenders with sheer power and adrenaline.

Bo was both.  Watch that video.  We often don’t see it these days… a running back finding open field and outrunning the safety who had an advantageous angle on him?  Unheard of.  And this same guy with all that speed knocked some of the most feared linebackers and defensive ends on their rumps with his raw power.  Who can say they outran Deion Sanders and knocked down Brian Bosworth?

Sadly, his career(s) ended with a single tackle.  Listen to the commentary on why this simple looking tackle took a beast out of commission… “If he had been a less powerful athlete, he would have been fine.”   His extra power, his extra speed, his superb ability… that is what doomed him?  Whether you agree with that expert opinion or not, lets table the medical condition of “extra awesome” for a moment.

Isn’t that true for Christians?  Why was Paul in prison?  He was close to Jesus.  Why was John the Baptist beheaded?  He was a significant part of the plan.  Why did Peter deny Him?  He knew the price of following in the footsteps of Jesus… and he wasn’t willing to pay it just then.

If you train, study, and commit you can become very good.  If you train, study, and commit in the areas God has blessed you in… you will appear otherworldly to your peers.  If you apply that training, knowledge, and experience in your gifting to God, you will become the target.  You will be tackled from behind.  Let’s change that line from the commentator a bit.  What if Bo wasn’t giving it his all?  What if he was tired?  What if he just wanted to put in the minimum effort?  I imagine he would have went down easy as well.

They think it was his momentum coupled with his strength.  When he felt the enemy around him, he didn’t give up.  When they started to wrap him up he said, ‘I’m not letting you get my legs’.  He pulled them with his strength.  He kept trying to run.  It was the act of giving everything you have even when things start to go wrong.  If he had conceded to the tackle, he may have just gone on and performed many more jaw dropping, spectacular plays.  But he simply refused.  He would not go down on someone else’s terms.

Do we?  Do we give it all we have?  When adversity shows up, do we lean to the sidelines yielding the drama of the tackle?  Do we just fall down when something bad touches us? Are we content with just a first down?  Is making the team enough?  Are we happy with status quo?  Or do you yearn to keep moving, to keep pushing, to keep pulling, to stay on your feet, to knock back adversity, to pummel oppression, to de-cleat turmoil in your life?

I idolize Bo as an athlete, not because of his stats.  Some of his stats, when seen all alone, didn’t look that great.  It was how he accomplished those numbers.  It was in the time frame with shortened seasons.  It was with integrity.  It was with determination.  He didn’t just score touchdowns… He refused to let the enemy have a say in the outcome of his goals.  He didn’t care if you were a 300 pound lineman, an all-world linebacker, or an epic safety… (or all 3).  If you stood in his way, you better had prepared harder and been gifted more because he was willing to empty his tank to get to the destination.

Can we say the same?  With God behind us, blessing us, Biblically prepared, prayed for, do we dig in and give absolutely everything we have against the enemy in this world?  Or, when he lays a hand on us, does punting sound like a good idea?  “I can do all things through Christ“.  Is it that we don’t really believe the word, “ALL”?  Do we read that and think God made a mistake by putting that in the Bible?  Do we think the Greek translation really meant, ‘I can do reasonable things…’?  Or… is it the last part?

Are we not in Christ?  Are we not ‘through’ Him?  Is He even invited to our efforts?  If we lived out our faith the same way Bo chased down miraculous catches on the baseball field, if we prayed with the same vigor that Bo plowed through defenders on the football field, if we chose to keep running even when we were inevitably stopped… we could show the world why its so important to run the race we cannot win.

Putting on the name of Christ is like getting handed the football.  11 skilled professionals will hunt you down and do everything they can to not only stop you, but to take what is yours.  What is better than a tackle?  A forced fumble.  A defensive touchdown.  Fantasy football players want nothing more than the rare sack, fumble, TD that can happen in a single play.  If you are a believer without a team, I pray you find one quick.  You need prayer warriors, defenders in the faith, and if nothing else, shoulders to cry on and keep you upright.

God’s church is His team and we need that to win.  We have to hobble off the field when attacks don’t go so well and that is much easier with the help of some other players.  That tackle is coming.  That moment when Satan goes for the jugular against those that oppose him.  God has armed us, prepared us, and gifted us for that moment.  Will we leave skills unused?  Will we leave gas in the tank?  Will we go down easy, pull up, look back?

 

Warning: Do Not Duplicate

Jesus was unlike any other the world has ever seen.  If we fit in… if we look like everyone else… if we choose normalcy… then we aren’t showing the world Jesus.  We aren’t Christ like… We aren’t Christians.  To “put on” Jesus isn’t to attend church or learn a few rules. Rather, we are called to be consumed by Jesus, to partake of Him, to be Him.

People generally had two reactions when confronted with the complexity and humility of their Savior.  They would follow Him, or they would plot to dismantle Him and all He stood for.  Love or hate.  He either offered you freedom, love, salvation, and healing… or he threatened your earthly world and needed to be dealt with.

But true to form, He did something no one expected.  Something incomprehensible.  Who would have ever imagined that the feeble and selfish plans of a hateful and corrupt legalistic group would have actually worked against the God, maker of man?  Shouldn’t He have had a fail-safe?  Shouldn’t He have seen it coming?  Couldn’t He stop it?  Sure.  But He chose not to… for us.

Can you imagine having the ability to defend yourself against the scum of humanity and choosing not to… because you love the scum… all of them?

This goes against all logic.  That is not the thinking of earth dwelling humans.  And when some met this man, they followed.  They witnessed the difference first hand.  This man doesn’t serve himself, he serves God.  He doesn’t accumulate, He hands out.  He doesn’t demand, He assists.  When He could rightfully strike back, He hugs.  When He has been cheated, He prays.  It’s like the opposite of everything life teaches us.

And now, with Jesus having proven He was all and more than He promised, but also gone from this world, He left one thing to bring everyone to Him in the end and finish His great and wonderful plan…

Us.

We may be generations removed.  But we have a relationship anyway.  We may have never witnessed the pages of the Bible lived out before being recorded, but we do have that perfect hindsight where the entire story has played out save one part.  The return our ancestors spoke of is approaching us just as it was for them.

What were the commands?  Be ready.  No time for leaven bread.  Like a thief in the night… Go into the world and speak Jesus.  Pick up our cross and follow in His footsteps.  Be persecuted for His name.  Be the person unlike any other… except that one.  Be like Him.  Be the man who inspires strangers to change their lives.  Be the woman who looks past the setting sun and sees the coming Son.   Be the young adult that refuses to follow week minded and selfish ambitions.  Be the child that yearns for something more.

Be unlike any other.  If we can’t be like Him, we will be just like everyone else.  The world has seen that over and over and over.  The world doesn’t follow normalcy.  The world doesn’t reject status quo.  We are the gift left to finish the plan of God.  We are to be Jesus to the world.  Some of us have never shown Him because we don’t properly understand Him ourselves.  Or we are too scared.  Or being just like everyone else is too comfortable.  Or excuse number 7, or exception number 19, or reason number 312…  We know how to make anything sound acceptable.

If we conform to the world, if we follow in the social expectations, if we don’t stand firm and tether to Jesus… we will never show Him to the world.  And if we don’t, no one else will.  I can’t think of a more cruel punishment to the world (or anything more un-Christ-like… to deny them Jesus, when He allowed us to kill Him for just that very privilege).

While you are planning diets, new budgets, and other personality traits you want to alter in this new year, might I suggest the greatest goal you could ever imagine?  Would you consider something more life changing than good health, and more valuable than extra wealth?  Stop being like everyone else.  Be like Him.  Don’t judge your neighbor… Become a neighbor.  A good one.  A compassionate one.  One that lives in the hindsight of redemption, freedom, and salvation.  Be like Him.